MPD Chief Newsham responds to calls for more support in SW Petworth

Google satellite view of Southwest Petworth

Residents in the Southwest Petworth portion of Ward 4 have been imploring MPD to bring their Narcotics and Special Investigations Division (NSID) to Ward 4 on a more permanent basis. The Ward 4 Councilmember, Brandon Todd, recently sent a letter to MPD's Chief Newsham requesting that MPD make this change happen. 

MPD Chief Peter Newsham sent a response to the Councilmember on August 30th (below). Todd's office says that in addition to the investigations by NSID, their office has also received a commitment from the Executive Director of the Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement (created through the NEAR Act) that the "area will be added to the list for the violence prevention and intervention teams to make weekly contact to help connect individuals with the necessary supports and services that Chief Newsham mentions below."

"Councilmember Todd remains focused on fostering a comprehensive, multi-agency approach to abating these public safety concerns, including working with other related agencies such as DCRA, ABRA, OAG, and the Main Streets programs," said Josh Fleitman, Todd's Communications Director.

Chief Newsham's letter to Todd is below:

Dear Councilmember Todd:

This letter is in response to your correspondence regarding public safety concerns in the Fourth District (4D). MPD appreciates your support and that of 4D residents as we work together to address some of the disorder issues that are the hardest to address. I agree that criminal activity happening in District neighborhoods where residents live, work, and send their children to school is unacceptable. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) is committed to safeguarding all District communities so that our residents can feel and be safe.   

As you noted, Commander Randy Griffin has tackled these issues head on and continues to be responsive to the needs of 4D residents. At the August 9th community meeting at Raymond Recreation Center, he took the opportunity to respond directly to residents.  Several residents mentioned the drug activity as a possible source of violent crime in the area. Commander Griffin assured those in attendance that we take these allegations seriously, but that none of Fourth District’s investigations to this point have revealed a direct correlation between drug activity and violence in the area. 

Commander Griffin and his team work with a variety of resources and tools to address disorder and violent crime in 4D. Their efforts have contributed to a 7 percent reduction in violent crime in the Fourth District compared to the same period last year. Nonetheless, they are committed to driving down crime even further and addressing the concerns raised by the members of the community.

In addition to patrol efforts and the Fourth District Crime Suppression Team (CST), 4D is supported by MPD’s Narcotics and Special Investigations Division (NSID) on investigations. Although NSID’s primary focus is on areas of sustained high levels of violent crime, it will also continue to support the Fourth District. Needless to say, major narcotics investigations do not fit neatly into police district boundaries, which is just one reason why they are coordinated by a centralized unit.  The Fourth District also works in close collaboration with agency partners such as the Alcoholic and Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) to investigate the complaints of business involvement in crime.  

We all know that arrests alone will not solve the problems related to narcotics and prostitution. The arrests neither address the root causes directly nor impose penalties that deter people from committing the crimes. All too often, the people arrested are soon back in our communities. In order to address street level crime and disorder, we must rely on the support of other government agencies and community partners. For instance, MPD is working with the Department of Behavioral Health to try to connect repeat offenders committing low level crimes while grappling with behavioral health and substance use disorders with services that will help break the cycle of arrest, release, and rearrest. Mayor Bowser has devoted additional resources to connecting people in the community with jobs that will help get them off the street. And two weeks ago, the Office of the Attorney General used his authority to take civil action against neglectful property owners to hold them accountable for illegal drug and firearm activity. We will continue to work with agency partners to help inform where resources and programs are directed to support public safety. 

I look forward to our continued partnership to help address concerns in the Fourth District. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further questions.

Peter Newsham
Chief of Police

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